WIPping like crazy


For the last couple of months I have been working like a mad knitter thing – making stuff to sell at the Christmas Fair. This year we made a real effort to focus on handspun items. There was a two-pronged attack: failure to sell much yarn in the past led us to believe that adding value was the way to go – Gill chucked yarn at me and I asked it what it wanted to be and then followed it’s wishes. It wasn’t just Gill’s yarn – I knitted my Zwartble and Zwartble/Mohair blend, and I threw some other bits and pieces into the pot as well. The second prong of the attack was in revisiting the designs that we have been working on  for… oh, feels like forever. We have stalled so many times in getting our patterns out and we thought this was the ideal opportunity to refine them and test knit into oblivion any little defects.

I knitted and I knitted and I knitted and… I made loads. Here’s a small portion of the heap.

Knitted heap
Knitted heap

Well, it worked, Partly. I am pretty sure that our ear flap hat is ready for release. Other items need more refinement yet. They will be appearing (gradually) over at Sanday Spinners – though there are more important things going on in Real Life at the moment and these are certain to hold us back for a little while yet.

So, picture your knitter: “hello little skein of yarn, what is your destiny?” Together, the yarn and I would decide “Hat” or “Scarf” or whatever, and I would knit, and knit, and knit. Elizabeth Zimmerman came to my aid when inspiration flagged and I gained some of her own enthusiasm for the Brioche stitch. So much so, that I purchased Knitting Brioche: The Essential Guide to the Brioche Stitch technique by Nancy Marchant.

There will be more Brioche in my life! I love the fabric that it makes. Not being a fan of being over-warm or bundled-up, I love the light and airy-but-warm nature of the brioche stitch fabric and am very much enthused by the prospect of two-colour brioche too…

I love Zimmerman’s “pithy” instructions that lend themselves so well to reinterpretation and extemporisation. I had avoided brioche stitch hitherto, due to many knitters reporting it as difficult. Not so! read Elizabeth’s simple instruction, do exactly as she says, and it’s perfect – perfectly simple. Could not be easier! I urge you, if you have not tried Brioche because it is “hard” – think again- you’ll be churning out light, airy (and suitably masculine = a very plus point, in my humble opinion) scarves for Christmas in double-quick time. The needles are huge and the work is extra speedy.

I cannot recommend basic Brioche enough. Try it. Now!

Sadly, I got so enthusiastic about whipping out just one more brioche scarf, or another brioche watch cap…. that I flagged on the more personal designs and, let’s face it, there’s no possibility of marketing a brioche scarf pattern — it’s just a rectangle of a repeating line instruction, and that line is a stitch dictionary basic. You can’t take money from folk for that! So, I failed in part of my mission.

It would seem that we got it wrong in other areas too, as come Sunday we found we sold less ready knitted items and more commissions. The quiet weeks that  I had envisioned following the Christmas Fair are now full of commissions and deadlines.

Monday, I made an extra extra large slouch hat to order. I promised this by Monday night on Sunday… when I thought it was Saturday.  Nevertheless, it began after lunch and was stitched together just after tea. My hands hurt like crazy, but I got it done.

This one was done yesterday and is currently tacked together for trying on. It’s another one where I got things wrong…

Brioche cap
Brioche cap

I had made a cap, based on Zimmerman’s Brioche Watch Cap but using smaller needles and more stitches – aimed at a denser fabric. I was short of this skein of Jacob yarn to do a turn back brim and had it in my head that a close fitting densely-knit cap would suit the yarn. I wanted a straight side, and a relatively flat top. I knew that the shortage of yarn would define the size. I set off and knitted brioche until I thought there was only enough yarn left to finish the top, then switched to stocking stitch. All this I remember. Do I remember what size of needle? How many stitches? How long the body was? No! I did not make notes. It would fit somebody, sometime. I had no plans to make another – the cap was directed by the yarn and the next cap would be directed by its own yarn partner.

When the gentleman tried it on, declared it a fit, and liked it but… could he have one just like it, with the sides a couple of centimetres longer… of course, I said yes. No problem. I’d have it ready for this coming weekend. After all, I’d simply look at the one I made earlier, measure it up, and work from there.

Then the original was sold.


Oh, dear.

Oh, my….

No notes.

I’ve done this to match, so far as memory allows (I made a lot of hats, it’s hard to be sure.) I had to let the customer know that I was in a quandary and arrange a fitting. The hat is loosely seamed without sewing the ends in, to allow trying it on, but so I can unpick and reknit as needed.

That’ll teach me.

Notes. Notes. More Notes. LOTS of notes!

Anyway – I must get on. I have a Sanday Spinners ear flap to make today and then some bedsocks need to be created very soon thereafter.

Maybe in future we’ll just have samples on the table and take orders – then avoid the frantic knitting  of October and November. I am so feeling the call of my own knitting. I’d like to be able to just sit and work on a sock  for myself. Quietly and at my own pace. And, fun though the handspun experience was, I am ready for some colour on my needles. Remind me, next Wednesday, to show you the scarf that I am making. It’s not Brioche, but it is still lovely – and has all the fun of some dropped stitches too…

Commissions permitting, there will be brief notes on many FOs this Friday. Fuller details of the Sanday Spinners items will be over on that site soon.

What? You want Brioche?

Oh, OK.

The “No Credit” Almost Instant Scarf

Pink and White Brioche
Pink and White Brioche

Click the image for a larger view…

Take some nice fluffy yarn and use two ends. Now, those ends may be the same yarn, or you may mix them to good effect. The scarf pictured used one end of  two-plyed white Cheviot, about DK weight and one end of a slubby soft single (actually from a mix of natural white Shetland and generic cross-breed local sheep, dyed.)

Select some thick needles that yield a fabric that you like – my example used 7mm needles, if I recall correctly (see? no notes!)  You may need larger ones. Even much larger.

Cast on an even number of stitches, quite loosely. I made this scarf with 24 stitches. Or, come to think on it, maybe it was only 20. Experiment. SWATCH!

Row 1 (work ONCE only):* Knit 1, bring yarn forward to front of work, slip the next stitch as if to Purl.*Repeat* to * until end of row, you should end with a slipped stitch, and the yarn forward between the last two stitches. The yarn wraps around the last stitch when the first Knit stitch is worked in the following row.

NB: The yarn forward stays forward and forms a new loop when knitting the Knit stitch, that makes a double stitch in the following row.

Row 2: Knit 1, bring yarn forward to front of work, slip the next stitch as if to Purl.       * Knit the next stitch together with  the loop formed by your yarn forward in the previous row. Bring yarn forward to front of work, slip the next stitch as if to Purl. *  Repeat from * to * to end of row.

Keep working Row 2 until your scarf is as long as you desire.

Row 3: Knit across in K1, P1 rib, knitting those extra loops in as before.

Cast off quite loosely.

Add fringe if desired. (I prefer without.)

You can of course use just one end to knit the scarf, but Elizabeth Z knew what she was talking about on this matter. There is something very special about the simple Brioche stitch fabric when worked with two strands Рit expands like a souffl̩, into something light and frothy and totally unlike the flat boring yarn you started with. Try it, and I promise it will not disappoint.

The hat is done in Brioche stitch too, in a similar pair of yarns and on much fatter needles. It makes for as very light and very warm topping. One size fits most women.

The hat and scarf are both available for sale and will be listed at Sanday Spinners as soon as I can manage to do so. In the meantime if they appeal to you, just ask… just note that they are not an actual pair as the hat is made with a Shetland 2ply, the scarf with a Cheviot.


  1. December 7, 2011

    That ear flap hat pattern looks great, perfect for my chilly ears!

    • December 7, 2011

      Thanks Katie – it took time and several iterations but I am (almost) happy to release it now. The knitted-flat flap ear is fully written up but needs editor review and some nice formatting. The editor is doon Sooth for a while now but we’ll address it once she is home again.

      I want to do a knitted-in-the-round version asap. It’s the seaming that I dislike, though I know many early-days knitters appreciate the flat appraoch.

      Would you care to test knit?

      I’ll be listing some finished hats at Sanday Spinners soon.

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